University of Arizona Nursing PhD student and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future of Nursing Scholar Carrie Langley, RN-BC, MSN, MPH, has a lot on her plate these days. Not only is she busy working on her degree, with a projected 2020 graduation date, but in her position as Director of Health and Social Services for Cochise County she is leading the county’s efforts against COVID-19.
Born and raised in rural West Virginia, Langley knew she wanted to become a nurse when she was in high school. As a HSTA (Health Sciences and Technology Academy) student, she was inspired by the school nurse to join the next generation of health sciences students. “Seeing the impact nursing could have to improving health throughout the population was instilled throughout the HSTA program,” she says. “I was hooked.” Langley began her career as an emergency room nurse in Fayetteville, NC. She commissioned into the Army Nurse Corps where she served eight years serving in a variety of positions in clinical areas, and later, leadership roles.
"In my role, we plan, we provide guidance, and we work to rapidly complete investigations to minimize exposure to others. Much of what we do is educational, and during this time, education can prove very challenging with a variety of viewpoints. This isn't unique to COVID, it's with any crisis situation. I can say, there is never a day just like another," ~ Carrie Langley, UArizona Nursing PhD student and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future of Nursing Scholar
Living and working in southeastern Arizona since 2009, Langley was drawn to UArizona Nursing because of its rural health focus and its strong mentorship opportunities. In her PhD studies, her research zeroes in on mental health in rural communities. She came to her current position with Cochise County after completing her Masters of Public Health in 2011. “I had worked with public health while serving in the military,” she says. “After leaving the military the opportunity with local public health presented, which was a great fit for me.”
As Cochise County’s Director of Health and Social Services, Langley serves as the incident commander for the County’s response efforts. She and her team work as a unified command with the office of emergency services, offering services in Benson, Bisbee, Douglas, Sierra Vista and Wilcox, five days a week. Langley is careful to distinguish her role from her nurse colleagues who are working in direct patient care. “I enjoy my role in public health, but I think it's important to state I do not consider it ‘front line’ work,” she says. “In my role, we plan, we provide guidance, and we work to rapidly complete investigations to minimize exposure to others. Much of what we do is educational, and during this time, education can prove very challenging with a variety of viewpoints. This isn't unique to COVID, it's with any crisis situation. I can say, there is never a day just like another.”
Langley says that the biggest challenge nurses face during this crisis is its pervasive impact on everyday life. “I have no doubt each experience is as unique as each individual,” she says. “However, for many, this may be the first time the crisis at work is also the crisis impacting every aspect of life. In other words, you can't ‘just leave it at work.’” For her, one of the biggest challenges is the sheer scale of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s the fact that this is not a rapid event,” she says. “This is a marathon, and we are not yet to the halfway point. It's difficult, but finding balance is critical, and staying the course will be paramount.”
Staying above the fray during challenging times requires positive thinking. Langley cites a Mr. Rogers episode as a touchpoint when she’s feeling overwhelmed. “There’s an episode when he is speaking to children about ‘the helpers,’” she says. “There are helpers everywhere, and as I observe acts of kindness in the public, or the dedication of our healthcare workforce, I'm inspired. When I look at the way we are working diligently, developing ideas, and pushing forward, the perseverance is motivating.”
She may be in the thick of the fray fighting COVID-19, but she still manages to keep her eyes on a post-pandemic future. She plans to continue her research, for which she has been funded to complete an intervention study in her local community for adults transitioning from jail to the rural community. Additionally, she plans to continue her public health work and harbors ambitions of returning to the military in a few years. As a Wildcat Nurse, Langley feels empowered to dream big. “It has allowed me to learn from some of the most talented professionals nursing has,” she says. “I feel inspired and motivated, and ready to take on any challenge my career may bring.”